Saturday, July 5, 2014

My First Road Trip ... Queens NY

Road Trips, they were infused into my Grandmother's DNA, and somehow I got a smidgen of an adventurous spirit myself thanks to her.

She loved road trips, and I don't know if it was out of a simple love for travel or from necessity, but I got to be her traveling companion on more than one occasion.

She started letting me tag along with her when I was just a little girl, and to this day I love to hit the road; sometimes with no destination in mind, I simply love the adventure. 
My Grandma Lockwood. We traveled the miles together

I was probably four or five when I took my first road trip with my Grandmother, and it wasn't just to Buffalo or Albany, no, we were going to Queens NY, where my Aunt and my twin cousins lived. 

I couldn't tell you if I was exited or not I was so little, but my Gram always told me that I sang in her ear the whole way there and all the way home again - so I must have been enjoying the ride. And once in a while when I remember her saying that, I get a glimpse of that ride.

I can actually see myself, my head popped up behind her in the back seat, music playing on the radio singing a favorite song and not missing a single word. I can see her looking at me from the rear-view mirror with a big smile on her face, asking, "How do you remember every single word to every song?" 

That is the scene in my mind. And to answer her question nearly 45 years later, "I have no idea how I remember the words Grandma, no idea."

The Queens trip would be the first time I'd meet my twin cousins. I was maybe four or five and they were a year younger, but for some reason that visit and the specific moments I remember from being there are as vivid as the day they happened.

My first favorite memory, hands down, is the Bat-Man Cave under the stairs in their basement. There was a black curtain draped over the doorway that lead under the stairs into a hidden space. I remember it was a tiny deep room, dimly lit with a light somewhere. I think a small table and chairs took up some of space in that small spot and there may have been a bit more furniture, but all in all it was a perfect hide-out. 

And we each got to be Bat Man or our favorite Super Hero for the day, with capes and masks and gloves and boots and all the bells and whistles that go along with Super Hero status. 

The complete package. 

The memory is like a slow motion, slid by slid picture show, but impressive to me as I write about it. We ran around the basement and flew through the air, lifting our capes up to catch the air, jumping as high as we could, bouncing off couches, and dropping and rolling to avoid collisions with the enemy; seriously damaging and maiming them when we did make contact, ending the encounter with their sure demise. (We of course, NEVER died). And then we would celebrate with our arms out-reached over our heads with loud hoots and howls of victory, jumping up and down in celebration of the conquering of our biggest and deadliest foes.

I can't exactly remember who the bad guys were? Hmm! I guess they never are remembered are they?

It was just simple, care-free, imaginary fun and we saved the world from the bad guys for hours.

And then came dinner and another memory of that Queens trip, it was our spaghetti dinner; And we happily shared it with the walls and the floor and the ceiling. I can remember it sticking and hanging from the ceiling and adhering itself to the walls and finding it hanging off of each of us, sticking to our heads and landing on our shoulders like long, dangling wet hair; and we just roared with laughter. 

It was hilarious! It was the most phenomenal Spaghetti War ever; We were covered in sauce and pasta, who wouldn't find that funny?

And laugh ... we laughed so hard we couldn't talk or breathe deep enough so we could keep laughing, it was that funny. And There is no way to forget something like that.

I remember my Aunt yelling, "QUIT THROWING THE SPAGHETTI!" (But I bet she had a little chuckle and grin behind her shout).  I think the plea for us to quit may have taken a couple more shouts, but we finally stopped, reluctantly, with each of us simultaneously attempting to through that last fist full of pasta. 

We were all winners in that spaghetti war. 

And that's all I remember. Spaghetti flying and us laughing. I don't think we cleaned it up or if we were even asked to help. I don't even remember getting the noodles picked off us and getting cleaned up, I just remember throwing spaghetti covered in sauce at my cousin's who I had just met, and they were tossing it back at me, and it was so much fun, and we didn't even get in trouble for it, not really, and that made it even better.

Moral of the story, chucking food can be fun. I have experienced it. I wonder if adults could find it that much fun? Maybe there would be happier adults in the world if they did have a food fight once in a while?

Who knows, maybe I did get in trouble, but my mind, my amazing mind, didn't remember that part. I would have to say fun trumps trouble and one without the other seems to be the theme for me, at least in my young life. 

Those are the only two things I remember from meeting my cousin's the first time and visiting Queens. I am sure we ate more meals and played more Super Hero games and probably even went to a park and took a few car rides into the City, but those two gems, they will forever live in my memory.

And in no time at all, we were on our way home again, me and my Gram. There I was again, singing in her ear and she was still amazed at how I could sing those songs, effortlessly. Never once did I hear her tell me to stop. She just smiled at me in the rear-view mirror and drove down the road like she owned it.

We never did go back to Queens after that visit; My uncle got transferred with his job and they moved within the next couple of years to Pittsburgh PA., and as you may have guessed, I have stories to share from there too. 

Those stories are for another time.

We shared many more road trips together, and made just as many memories. My Gram shared a love of something with me I don't think many knew about her, and that was that she loved the road and traveling, and in turn so do I. That is a kind of love for something that money cannot buy. 

I am glad she shared it with me.

So as a favor to yourself, go on a Road Trip. Forget the excuses and all the reasons "not to", and find just one "because I can," and go. You will never regret "hitting the road," no matter where "your" road may take you. The destinations are endless, be it to the Grand Canyon or to see a special Aunt you haven't seen in many years. 

You will never regret hitting the road; And the freedom and amazing memories you experience along the way will be priceless.

Safe Travels to all ... Now hit the road. 
(And take a map along for the fun of it).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

My first Harley - Davidson Adventure

My brother Mickey, our neighbor and me, without a clue!
We were basically armatures when it came to that Harley - Davidson dirt bike, and the adventure, in a nut-shell could have basically killed any of us, but somehow we bounced back nicely considering the dirt and gravel road we used as our training ground.

Luckily, none of us suffered any more than normal cuts and bruises from riding that bike; and thankfully not a single broken bone on any of us; At least not from riding the dirt bike.

It was one of the best dirt bikes I had ever attempted to ride, (there were a few others), and if my memory serves me right, I have never seen one quite like it ever again. The other's did not hold a candle to that Harley.

It was blue with white lettering and it was larger than I remember; and I had to use my tiptoes to keep it from falling over when I sat on it. And it seemed that some how, between my house and my grandmother's house, (that was only a half mile away), I nearly always flooded that bike and could never get it started again. I can remember how over and over I would jump up on that kick start and every time ... nothing. Just a disappointing putt noise, and that was it. No REVVE, no exhaust, not ever a a hint of starting that bike, and no ride home. And so I would have to walk that bike ALL the way home. Which seemed like a whole mile at that age. Pushing it and balancing it upright all the way home was tiring, I can still feel how tired my arms were after all of that pushing. 

By rights I should have had arms like a weight lifter, and I was always so disappointed that I had to put it away for the night. (SIGH)! "Tomorrow is another day," my mom would always says. Thankfully, it always started again the next day.

It was a personal triumph, frankly, that I could even get the bike  up and going fast enough to keep myself upright and rolling down the road. 

Speed was never an issue, however, because the speed was usually just slow. 

I think I got it up to 25 or 30 MPH on one of my adventures down that dirt road, and the smile I had on my face is one I can still feel to this day. Some of those rides were glorious, especially the ones where I didn't flood it and flew by my house to the other end of the road and back again. 

Those were the rides I gloried in. 

Those rides gave me the best feeling. No wind in my hair, of course, I had to wear a helmet, but the feeling of freedom on that Harley dirt bike was priceless.

Just like the American Express commercial. Gas .80 cents a gallon, Helmet, 20 bucks, riding solo on a Harley dirt bike up and down Shaw Road at 30 miles an hour, tops, Priceless.

The memory is not as hazy as the picture of it I found, but its a sweet memory. Its one of those memories that instantly awakens a flood of pictures causing everything in that moment to come back to life again, just like it was that day, and that is one of the best feelings in the world.

The picture itself is a treasure. It's me, in my favorite orange plaid pants and my favorite yellow summer shirt, sitting on the bike, obviously posing from the encouragement of my Grandfather. He, by all accounts, was our biggest and best fan and our personal photographer. He always made us pose too, because he just LOVED to take pictures. And he made sure he got the BEST moment, like that one of me on that Harley, leaving no question that I had NOT A CLUE of what I was doing, and my brother, well, he knew I didn't know what I was doing either.

It was after that day I started to learn to ride. I think I rode the life out of that bike. I rode it so much my step-dad started making me buy gas, and that took a lot of the fun out of it, but I somehow managed to keep riding it,and somehow I found enough work to keep gas in it. 

It was pretty cheap back then, less than a dollar, and a few gallons provided miles of fun, even if I couldn't leave Shaw Road. I made up my own destinations in my mind. I road through Europe and along the coast of California and down to Florida to visit my grandpa, all on that Harley and all on that old dirt road. 

Awww ... I love thinking about it. The memory is one of my sweetest ones.

I don't know what ever happened to that bike. Either it got old and quite running or we put it away and forgot about it because life got complicated shortly after that. Where ever it ended up, I hope someone got to make new memories on it.

Regardless of its demise, the memory of that dirk bike will occupy a corner of my mind for a very long time now. Now that it is fresh and I have remembered those trips I took around the world on that Harley. I forgot the destinations my mind had traveled to.

I told my bother about the picture today and he requested his own copy, he had no idea it even existed. I am wondering what he will remember once he sees it? I am looking forward to his version of the story behind the picture.

I only remember that it was a so much fun. It was a joyful, innocent time in my life. I could ride a Harley Davidson dirt bike just as good as any guy could back then, and that, for me, is something to brag about. 

I had actually forgotten I could even sit on and drive a bike. It makes me wonder, should I try it again?  One never knows, I might just give it a whirl, to feel that free again would be amazing.

And of course, it would have to be on a Harley!